Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has cautioned the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC that the success and failure of the 2023 general elections next month will have substantial implications for the country.
He said the success of the election will add value by consolidating and strengthening the roots of our democracy, while failure may increase political polarization in the country and set our democracy backwards. Wike gave the warning at an International Conference in Port Harcourt with the theme: “Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security”. He said elections which are seen as a contest, the outcome of must be seen as free, fair and credible.
Governor Wike pointed out that since 1999, Nigeria has had six general election circles but none of them has been seen as free and by losers, contestants have had to end in the Supreme Court to contest their results. He recalls that the outcome of the 2007 elections led to protests and riots. This led to the loss of several lives the loss of lives and properties in particular sections of the country.
” Indeed former President Musa Yar’Adua publicly denounced the election that brought him to power as flawed and pledged to make necessary corrections with Electoral reforms. The 2011 general elections suffered a similar experience and were litigated by the opposition up to the supreme court. None of the defeated contestants believed that they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, security agencies and Politicians for undermining the contest with brazen electoral fraud.”
Governor Wike said the 2015 general elections recorded some improvement with the introduction of the Smart Card Reader. Even at that, the result of the election was considered rigged in favour of the opposition. It was challenged by the Supreme Court.
He said the 2019 general election was equally problematic and rejected by the opposition as highly compromised up to the supreme court. “In Rivers State, we battled the military 2019 rerun of the general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory to retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens.”
He noted that with six consecutive circles of elections in Nigeria, the method of elections should have crystalized into putting in effective standard rules of free, fair and credible elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
However, he said Nigerians are hoping that with the assurances of INEC, the 2023 elections will herald a new dawn in the electoral process in Nigeria. In the address by Dr Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State commended the organisers of the international conference and the Rivers State government for sponsoring the event. He hoped that the outcome will resonate with the thoughts of renowned Intellectual and Socio-Scientist from Rivers like the late Professor Claude Ake.
The event had in attendance, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria who gave the keynote address. At the time of filing this report, the conference was about unveiling a book written in honour of Governor Wike chaired by past Governor Dr Peter Odili of Rivers State